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FeaturesThe Netherlands

Before they were royal: The life of Princess Mabel of Orange-Nassau

© RVD - Jeroen van der Meyde

Princess Mabel of Orange-Nassau, or Mabel of Orange as she is known in her daily life, is today world widely praised for her work for children’s rights and as a global power broker. The wife of the late Prince Friso of Orange-Nassau is the mother of two girls. Mabel’s extraordinary career did not start when she married the son of then Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands but upon graduating. Let’s have a look at the early years of Mabel of Orange.

Princess Mabel of Orange-Nassau is born as Mabel Martine Los at Pijnacker, the Netherlands on the 11 August 1968. She is the oldest daughter of late Hendrik “Henk” Los and Florence Koopman. Her father died while ice skating when Mabel was only nine. Her mother remarried with banker Peter Wisse Smit, and Mabel took on her stepfather’s last name. Mabel has one younger sister and a half-sister.

As a teenager, Mabel Wisse Smit was educated at the gymnasium in Hilversum. She continued her education at the University of Amsterdam. She graduated with a degree in politics and economics (cum laude). While still pursuing her master’s degree, she founded her first NGO, the European Action Council for Peace in the Balkans. Mabel of Orange completed several internships including those at the United Nations, Shell, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ABN AMRO.

Princess Mabel learned four languages in a short period of time. She can fluently speak Dutch (her mother tongue), French, English and Spanish. She learned Spanish when she worked as an employee at a Mexican firm for three months. She is also able to speak some Slavic languages which she learned while working for the UN.

In 1995, the young Mabel of Orange founded War Child the Netherlands with her friend Willemijn Verloop. The organisation worked to improve the destiny of children in war circumstances. She continued working for the board until 1999. Mabel then moved to Brussels, Belgium, to work at the Open Society Institute which aims to promote democracy, human rights and strives to end AIDS.

Princess Mabel first came into the spotlights when Prince Friso’s father, Prince Claus was placed in the tomb of the New Church in Delft. Mabel accompanied the Dutch Royal Family at the grave and rumours of a relationship between Mabel and Friso began circulating. The pair got engaged on the 30th of June 2003.

There was some controversy concerning the union of Mabel and Friso. After their engagement, it became known that Mabel had been friends with drug lord Klaas Bruinsma. The Dutch media claimed Mabel had been the girlfriend of Klaas Bruinsma, and his former bodyguard supported the claim. Princess Mabel has always denied this. Later in 2011, it became clear that Princess Mabel and Prince Friso had been speaking the truth all along as it was a friend of Ms Wisse Smit who had a romantic relationship with the drug lord.

Prince Friso and Princess Mabel didn’t receive permission from the government to get married, mostly because of the controversy. The government claimed it was not because of the so-called relationship between Mabel and Klaas Bruinsma but because Mabel and Friso had given “incomplete and false” information about the case. Princess Mabel later admitted that her contacts with Klaas Bruinsma had been more intense and over a more extended period of time than she first told the Dutch government. Prince Friso had to decide between his place in line to the throne and the love of his life, Mabel. He chose the latter.

Prince Friso and Mabel Wisse Smit were married on the 24th of April 2004. It was a rather modest wedding as Prince Friso’s grandmother, the former Queen Juliana, died only a month before the wedding. Even though Prince Friso was no longer in line to the throne, Mabel received the title of Princess of Orange-Nassau as a title of courtesy.

Princess Mabel and Prince Friso have two daughters together: Luana (2005) and Zaria (2006). Prince Friso had a ski accident in Lech, Austria, in 2012 which resulted in him going into a coma. He died in 2013.

About author

Laura is from Belgium and has a passion for all things royal. She is Europe Correspondent for Royal Central since October 2016 and has contributed to other news websites. In her daily life she is a fulltime student in EU-politics and political communication.